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Thoughts, complaints and finally praise for whole wheat flour

My peninsula kitchen.

Last night I made whole grain (100%) muffins. Not the usual 50/50 white/whole wheat I have used in the past. This batch of muffins were the real deal, all whole wheat flour. Now I know that folks have been baking and cooking with whole grains for a long time, almost forever. But changing ones perception regarding ingredients can take time and for me it took more than time. It took change.

Change within me yes, but also a small change in the ingredients I used. I have always embraced the ideal of using whole wheat in my cooking. I have always wanted to use whole wheat in my cooking and baking. But I have not always liked the texture and the flavor. From there it took a strong desire to understand and improve. So I did.

I learned that ground whole wheat flour will begin to change once it is ground into flour. Like all food it will begin to break down, as time goes by. It is the natural order of all living matter and food in particular to go from good, to aging, to spoiled, and move right along to the garbage can. In the garden we call this composting and praise the very process for producing a vital and healthy garden. Yet in the kitchen we call it waste. And we all know, I don't like waste.........

Bulk purchased wheat berries, they keep a long time.

When you grind grains, the edible (freshness date?) time line is a long one, but there is one drawback. During this time (which I refer to as "aging"), the cut edges of the natural bran takes on a slightly bitter quality. And while I don't have a super refined set of taste buds, I do taste the bitter flavor in the finished product. Which led to not wanting to work with whole grain flours. Therefore leading to my not baking with whole grain flours. And finally not eating homemade whole grain foods.

My baking experiences would go something like this.......

I would use whole grain flour from my pantry and get a bitter batch of muffins or bread. So I would check the bag for a freshness date, just in case I had lost track of how old the flour was. But the freshness date was good, so what was going on? I know folks have been cooking and baking for hundreds of years, so did they just get past the bitter taste and eat it anyway? Or did their food taste better and if so, why?

By asking myself that question, I began to learn. And as I learned, I understood the oxidation process in ground flours. I learned that wheat berries will stay fresh for many years, yet ground flour only a few months. But even then the bitter taste will be present, because oxidation starts right away. A thick brown paper bag will keep the ground flour safe during shipping and storage, but nothing prevents oxidation.

Because I am a kitchen gadget gal, I was thrilled to be able to buy a grinder. We started with a $20.00 purchase from a CraigsList ad. It was a Kitchenaid grinder attachment and I started baking whole grain bread. Baking with whole grains was so new to me, I made a lot of mediocre bread. But I was determined to bake with whole grains and eat what I baked. 

I was still in the big batch period of my life cooking for family gatherings, so of course I made big batches of bread. Unfortunately it was mediocre bread, and on some days worse. Which meant day after day, of really bad textured toast for breakfast on my way to work. This is a bigger deal that one might think because I love toast. Not just any toast, but crunchy toast that is crisp on the outside, holds just the right amount of butter and has an easy crunch for the chewy enjoyment of eating toast. I will tell you right up straight, perfect toast cannot be made from mediocre bread! Never. Going. To. Happen.



Day after day after day after day. Then one day I cheated and threw out a loaf, I honestly could not take any more!

Love my kids for gifting it to me......

Also at this time I became very unhappy with my Kitchenaid mixer. I had been a Kitchenaid user for over 30 years, but the beautiful new red Kitchenaid I was given as a gift, would go into heat overload and the kill switch on the motor would be flipped (by design) during the kneading process for a batch of bread. I checked the manual and I was no where near the limit of flour that is stated can be handled by the mixer. It also stalled on cookie dough, where as my old one never did. Because this happened repeatedly I felt that the quality was no longer present in Kitchenaid products and set out to replace it.

This may seem drastic to some, but cooking and baking not only feeds my family, it is my hobby. I felt that it was time to take my passion about baking seriously and figure out what it was that I wanted to accomplish, then go ahead and spend the money to make it happen. This was a difficult decision, as I am very frugal by nature. But. I. Proceeded. Anyway.

We ran an ad on CraigsList to sell the Kitchenaid, and by sheer luck a young couple in Eugene Oregon who had experimented growing their own wheat were interested in the mixer for the grinder alone! (grinders are expensive) They were happy to be able to grind their wheat for a very affordable price, we were happy to recoup some cash to offset the costs of the new equipment I had purchased. But selling that mixer was the easy part........

Now I had to learn to use the new equipment. This is always a stumbling block for me, as I have this crazy idea that I will break something new and completely ruin it. For the first time, I was immediately comfortable with the new equipment. I went to the Wonder Mill website and watched the informational video showing how to use the grinder. And from there, it was easy, and I just got busy cooking!

Photo courtesy of Bosc

The Bosc mixer is wonderful and I cannot recommend this enough (please note: I have not received any product incentives, all posts reflect my true opinions). The booklet is set up to fully explain the operations of the mixer and this is the fun part. They have a few basic recipes for you to try so that you are can compare the way this mixer works verses the style of mixer you had in the past. Very smart marketing!

Photo courtesy of Wonder Mill.

But I am most pleased with the Wonder Mill grinder (again no incentive, just my opinion). It is easy to use, and produces the most wonderful whole wheat pastry flour! And that flour is the ingredient behind my renewed interest in baking. No longer am I turning out dry, crumbly muffins. You know the kind I am talking about, muffins that the birds won't eat and the dog runs from!

Instead I am turning out moist, delicious muffins that don't require butter, but they taste that much better with a little pat, spread over them. I want to make a pie next with a whole grain crust. And my mother's favorite fresh apple cake. And then I think I am ready to make a single loaf of perfect whole grain bread. You know the kind I am talking about, it makes the best toast in the world!

Thanks for listening.

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this post shared with:
weekend cooking @ beth fish reads
happiness is homemade @ blogghetti
hearth and soul @ apriljharris.com

7 comments

  1. thats amazing and oh boy,, I love that red,,,, I have never had a Kitchen Aide maybe some day lol,,
    by the by,,,,, I made the whole wheat muffins with apple that you posted the other day,, a winner for sure,, delicious!!!

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  2. What a story. But the thing that struck me the most was the Kitchen Aid part. I have an old(er) mixer -- maybe 25-30 years. It is still going strong and I have a lot of the attachments. BUT if it ever gives out, I'm going to be cautious about a new one. I know King Arthur still sells them, and pretty much trust their recommendations. I wonder if only certain models are still good???

    BTW: I agree that whole wheat is best fresh, but I haven't yet invested in a grinder.

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  3. After reading this I want to start baking again.

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  4. Although I am not much of a baker, I can appreciate your post. ;-) Good for you to figure out what you needed and then finding it and for experimenting and changing your tastes.

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  5. Nice post. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

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  6. Fascinating! I've been experimenting with doing more practical baking (bread and the like instead of just sweets) and have been experimenting with bread. This was really interesting!

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  7. very nice post, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

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